Dr. Spencer Reid stood at the end of the grave and his heart, well hearts actually, two to be precise, were both breaking apart. This regeneration he had decided to stop and experience humanity from childhood to old age and he had found a way to make it happen. He had stopped running for a brief moment in his time and learned to walk, to take it slow and what he found was love and family. He had both loved and hated it at the same time. Right now, in this moment he cursed the universe and himself for ever meeting and falling in love with Aaron Hotchner. He had stayed in one place and when he fell in love he didn’t run, he stuck it out, adopted Aaron’s son Jack and had a different sort of adventure. An adventure full of love and family. Something he hadn’t experienced since the day he ran from his home world. He tried to regret his decision to stay, but he couldn’t because he let himself love more thoroughly than he ever had before.
Spencer stood at the end of the grave and let the tears come and let his hearts break. It wasn’t till he heard the clearing of a throat next to him that he came back to himself.
“Were you ever going to tell me?” He knew that tone. It was a tone he had heard from many a companion over his long life-times. And one that sounded almost exactly like the father.
“I’m not sure.” Spencer admitted as he shuffled his feet a little, his hand gripped on the sonic screwdriver in his pants pocket. He did it more to hold onto something than anything else. That and Aaron had left a personal recording on it just for him that he hadn’t had the courage to listen to yet.
“So was the television show some kind of perverse pleasure for you? Some kind of visual glory to yourself?” Spencer slumped at hearing the anger and bitterness in the man’s voice.
“No, Jack. It wasn’t like that. At the time it was just a fun idea.” He turned to fully look on the face of the man he had helped Aaron raise and it pained him to know how angry his son was at him. “You do realize it wasn’t all accurate or real, right?”
“Was this real? Or was it just fun for you, as you say?” Spencer’s spine straightened as he narrowed his eyes and tried not to get angry at Jack. He knew the man was hurting and he didn’t know how to help the son of his heart.
“You think this is fun? You think that what I had with Aaron, with you was somehow not real? Everything I feel is real Jack. I stopped running, for him. For you.”
“And now you’re running again.”
“I have watched all my friends; all my family be put in the ground. I watched the best of us…the best of me leave this world and I can’t do it anymore Jack. It may be selfish but I can’t watch as you get old and eventually…” He wasn’t going to finish that sentence. Spencer took a deep breath as he looked back at the grave and once again fell apart inside.
“Yet here you stand looking as young as the day I met you and my father is still gone.”
“I couldn’t do anything Jack. It doesn’t work that way. Don’t you think I would have done something?” I loved your father, I love you”
“But you’re not Spencer Reid right now are you? You’re not my Papa.” Spencer saw the grief, sadness and anger swimming in Jack’s eyes. He wanted to ask where the children were but had the feeling that Jack was too angry at him to tell him.
“Jack,” Spencer groaned in pain at those words. “I will always be your Papa.”
“No. You’re the Doctor. After you leave here you’ll go and you will put all of us behind you. Somehow I think that is one truth that the TV show got right. Isn’t it?”
“Jack.” Spencer reached out and tried to take the man in his arms but Jack stepped back and glared at him in that oh so familiar way. He saw so much of Aaron in that look that both his hearts broke because that glare was being directed at him.
“No. Just go back to your ship and your space adventures and leave me alone.” Jack turned sharply and practically ran to his car. Spencer watched as he drove away his hearts pounding hard in his chest that he had caused such pain in someone he loved so much.
He still didn’t leave when someone came to stand beside him. He didn’t turn to acknowledge them, he just closed his eyes and tried to stem the tide of emotions that were coursing through him.
“So, you finally decided to stay still for a while.” The rich female voice next to him was gentle but he heard the admonishment in her inflection.
“Please, not now River.” The Doctor bowed his head and lifted a shaking hand to wipe away the tears.
“Is this the first time for you Doctor?”
“First time for what?” He growled at her as he pressed his lips tightly together not trying to quell the angry tone in his voice.
“That you have to face the fact that no trick of yours could save him? That you have to actually say goodbye for once in your life?”
He couldn’t deny it. Couldn’t deny the things she was saying to him. She had been one of the few in his existence that saw past the bullshit. River, like Aaron, had wormed her way into his heart. But unlike Aaron he had saved her, he found a way to keep her alive and she had found a way to leave The Library Matrix for short periods of time. It was never perfect but she had always found a way to find him when he needed help or, like now, comfort.
“Is that why you’re here? To gloat?” He couldn’t quite keep the bitterness out of his voice.
“No. No Doctor I would never do that to you my love.”
“I loved him. I stopped running and I stood still and I let myself love him. How could I have been so stupid.” He growled and stalked away towards his TARDIS. Slipping inside he slumped on one of the couches next to the console. He wasn’t even surprised when River followed after him.
“What do you want River?” He blew out a breath as he lay sprawled out trying not to curl-up within himself. He wasn’t even looking at her when he felt her sit next to him. She carded her fingers in his hair as he laid his head in her lap. He tried to be stoic, tried to be the unfeeling, heartless Doctor that Clara had accused him of so long ago. Right this moment, though he was trying to find that Doctor and he just wasn’t there. Feeling safe he let himself break down in her arms.
“My poor Doctor.” River sighed as she held him against her. “You really loved him didn’t you?” The Doctor curled in tighter against her trying to find some measure of comfort.
“With everything I am. I held nothing back with him.”
“Except your true identity.”
“No. I told him. He didn’t believe me at first but I showed him the TARDIS. Then I took him to The Crystal Plains of Salenzia. The wonder and awe on his face is something I’ll never forget.”
River smiled softly as she kept her hands in his hair.
“When does this pain go away?” He asked not really expecting an answer.
“I don’t know. You just may have to learn to live with it. Learn true grief.”
He shoved off the couch as anger and pain flared across his face, “I’ve grieved. You forget I destroyed my whole planet.”
“But you’re trying to made that right, trying to save them. But this, your Aaron you couldn’t save.”
Spencer stopped and looked hard over at River. It took him a moment to find his voice again.
“Where are we?”
River smirked a little, “Jed the Fish.” She quipped hoping to get a laugh out of him. But by the look on his face it wasn’t a welcomed joke.
“Don’t River, not today.” He saw her visibly sigh as she squared her shoulders.
“Trenzalore.” She pressed her lips together as she crossed her legs.
“Of course. Library you, the construct. Fuck me.” He yelled as he walked the console room not able to settle.
“Well you made me Doctor. And when did your language get so crude?”
“Can’t work for the FBI for thirty plus years and it not affect you somehow.” He walked around the console playing with switches and buttons unable to quell his restlessness.
“Sometimes, like today, I wish Clara had just let me go. I was ready. Christmas was supposed to be my grave.” He leaned over the console, closing his eyes he reached into his pocket and pulled something out, setting it on the console.
“Don’t you dare. Don’t you even think like that. Don’t take away what you had. I know you’re grieving and I wish I could bring him back for you but I can’t and neither can you. You are just going to have to learn to live with your grief. With that pain, but don’t you dare regret living.”
The Doctor was leaning over the console still and staring at the item he had taken out of his pocket and placed there. River walked around and stood next to him. She stared at the little bottle sitting there and her heart started to pound in her chest. She knew what drugs looked like and this was most definitely a drug. The Doctor swept it up in his hand and held it up between thumb and forefinger.
“This has held me so captive over the last sixty years. I knew intellectually what something like this does to a body but I had never truly experienced it in my long existence. I valued my mind too much. Isn’t it interesting how your whole life can change in just a single moment?”
“Doctor?” River laid a hand on his arm as fear and worry filled her eyes. Spencer turned and looked at her noting the emotions there.
“I’ve been hunting and stopping alien monsters my whole life. I always come back to one simple truth and that is how terrible the human monster really is. My team at the FBI caught some of the worst human monsters.” He looked down at his hip at the forgotten gun sitting there. It had become so much a part of him that it had become a cold comfort. “I used violence River. I was my own willing pawn. I killed people and I only ever let it affect me once.” Still holding the vial in his hand he flopped back into the reading chair, throwing one leg over the arm. “One day I was caught in a trap that even I couldn’t get out of. Though, of course I was human at the time.” He drew the pocket watch out of his vest pocket and River’s eyes lit in recognition.
“So you used the watch.”
“Yes. I searched and found a way to become a child again. Doriam helped me find a particular rogue Time Lord. One who had successfully de-aged themselves. I wanted to find out what it was like to live a full human existence. I wanted to know what humanity was like from almost the beginning. Then Georgia.” He gripped the vial in his hand as he slumped back in the chair. He told her of being kidnapped, tortured and the forced drug use. He told her of the euphoria he had felt and how he got lost in the memories. He told her he had died but was revived by Tobias in enough time that regeneration hadn’t started. He told her about Susan and his regrets about not going back to her. His own grandchild he had left to fight a battle, one he felt at least partially responsible for. When Raphael wanted him to confess his sins of course he lied. Wasn’t that what he was good at? The Doctor, the consummate liar. He told her how only one clear thought broke through the constant haze he was kept in, Aaron Hotchner.
To Spencer, Aaron meant comfort and safety. The man was confident and yes he had an ego but it was born of experience and being a good leader. Aaron was smart and always knew how to lead his team. The decision to choose was always easy and one Spencer never regretted. That night he was saved, an unusual situation for The Doctor indeed because he was always the one doing the saving. Then he was being engulfed in his Unit Chief’s arms and his whole world changed once again. He felt more than cared for, he felt loved.
That love was so different because there were no expectations, no hero worship or fawning all over him. Aaron had confessed to him in their later years that he had loved Reid first for his mind then for the rest of him as well. He accepted all of the flaws and quirks which humbled Spencer because only two other people loved him like that in all of his existence, Diana Reid and his own mother.
“What do you want to do with it?” River visibly swallowed, worried about what the Doctor was going to do.
“What do I want to do with it?” He stood so close to River she could see the muscles twitch in his face. Those micro expressions he always tried to hide. “What I want to do is take it. I’d love nothing more right now than to get lost in it. Let myself drown in it. But that’s weak. It would be my fourth relapse and I just don’t know if I’d come back from it this time. Maybe…” he huffed out a breath and stalked off, pacing around as grief, anger and loneliness he hadn’t experienced in so very long filled him.
“Maybe what?” River demanded of him.
“Maybe I should just make room for, what would it be now? 21? Good number, always liked that number.” He smiled sadly, “Let him or her deal with it or let me forget it, I don’t care. I just want this pain to go away.” River walked to him and reached out to hold him.
“Don’t,” The Doctor walked away again. “Just go River. You can’t help me. No one can.” He glared at her with eyes that have seen and done too much. He almost felt bad when she flinched back from him.
“Doctor I don’t think you should be alone right now.”
“Afraid of what I’m going to do or not do?” At that moment River realized that the man in front of her was more Spencer Reid than Doctor. He was thinking and feeling with human emotions. This was not the Time Lord she knew and loved. This was a broken man who experienced profound loss that he had never had to face before.
“Frankly yes. This is not you. You’re The Doctor. You’re strong and brave and courageous.”
“I DON’T WANT TO BE.” Spencer yelled as he picked-up a stray tool and threw it across the room. “I don’t want to be strong. Don’t you get it Melody Pond? I didn’t just care about him; it wasn’t just a fling. I loved him, I married him for godsakes. I still love him. I stayed when I could have left anytime. I let myself grow old, I stayed for him.” Spencer wanted River gone. He wanted to be alone in his pain and his grief.
“No, just go River and leave me alone.” Spencer turned his back on her his shoulder’s slumped as he closed his eyes. He just wanted to be alone.
River stood a moment, her heart breaking as she watched the normally strong Doctor slump in pain and grief. She didn’t know how to help him, what to do for him so she let him be. She quietly turned around and left the TARDIS.
Spencer turned to see the doors shutting and he sat down, but not before bringing-up a picture of Aaron on his console. He stared at it for a long-time before he decided to finally leave. Where he was going to go he didn’t know, what he did know was that he needed to leave, to go somewhere. Taking a shaky breath, he finally set the coordinates for a place he always found peace and solace.
The Doctor landed but it took him a moment to gather his courage to leave the TARDIS. When he finally did he saw several of the Ood standing there as if they were waiting for him.
“Come Doctor. We will sing him to the stars and we will give you comfort.” The head of the group said as he walked up to the Doctor.
Taking comfort in his old friends Spencer followed them to one of their caves and sat in the middle of a circle with several of the Ood around him. Softly they started singing, the beauty of their voices floating out and into the stars as the Doctor bent in half his grief over whelming him. The comforting presence of those around him let him grieve without reproach, without anger, without someone trying to tell him how he should feel. They just let him feel, let him break down, let the grief consume him till it was no longer pounding in his hearts. He didn’t know how long he stayed there, how long they let him succumb to his grief but this was what he needed.
All but one of the Ood left and the one that stayed wanted to make sure he was okay. When he sat back up and wiped his eyes he knew, finally he could try to move on. He didn’t know where he was going to go but he knew he needed to at least talk to Jack to try to make amends. The boy, well man really, meant so much to him and he was tired of leaving messes behind him. This was one thing he was going to correct, then if Jack wanted him gone, he would leave. Shoring up his resolve he stood and the Ood stood with him. They walked in silence back to the Doctor’s TARDIS and saying his goodbye’s he left once again. He knew though, that this place, other than Gallifrey, would always hold deep meaning for him.
Standing at the doors of his ship Spencer took a deep breath to settle himself then took that step outside. He walked the short distance to Jack’s house and knocked on the door. He waited, hoping Jack would see him. It didn’t take long for the door to open and Henry was smiling sadly at him.
“Are you angry at me too Hen?”
Spencer watched as Henry took a moment before he answered. “No, not like Jack is. I’m disappointed you didn’t tell us, tell Jack. Come in, let’s not have this conversation with you standing outside.” Henry opened the door wider as Spencer walked in, three kids were running up to him hugging him tight. They looked-up at him confused.
“Grandpa, you look different.” Michael, the oldest of the three, stated in his matter-of-fact way.
“It’s hard to explain Michael. But just know I’m still and always will be Grandpa Spencer to you, okay?”
“Okay. Come on Tyler and Skye. Let’s leave the adults alone.” Michael steered the other two reluctantly away.
“Where is he?”
“Up in his office. I’ll leave you two to talk. Do you still like coffee?”
“Does the earth orbit the sun?” Spencer tried to joke and Henry chuckled softly then went off to the kitchen. Spencer climbed the stairs and softly knocked on the door to Jack’s office.
“I’ll come down in a minute Hen. I just want to finish this chapter.”
“Its not Henry, Jack. It’s me, please can we talk?” Spencer waited for what seemed like a long time before the door opened for him.
“What do you want?” Jack glared at him and he looked so much like Aaron in that moment that it made The Doctor’s hearts stutter in his chest.
“I want to talk. I know you’re hurt and angry but please I want to fix this. I love you Jack and that hasn’t changed.”
Jack stepped back and let Spencer, The Doctor, whatever he was into the office.
“Why did you lie to me? Why didn’t you tell me the truth? You said Dad knew, why didn’t he want me to know?”
Spencer sat down on the small loveseat and brushed his hair out of his eyes. “He wanted to protect you. Between our jobs and the adventures we did take there was always the danger of you being hurt. That if you knew who I was it could be used against me, against us. Not telling you was to keep you safe Jack. I promise, it was to keep you safe.”
Jack slowly sat down at his desk chair and studied the man in front of him for some time before he spoke again.
“It hurt, that you and Dad kept this from me. I think it hurt more because Dad didn’t want you to tell me. So, tell me how much of the show was real?”
Spencer smiled softly. He knew Jack was still angry but the fact that he was willing to talk gave him hope that not all was lost with the son of his heart. He told him that most of the companions were real, but Donna didn’t really become part Time Lord. She was healthy and happily married but retained all of her memories of their adventures. Amy and Rory really did get sent back in time by the weeping angels but it wasn’t because of the Statue of Liberty. It was actually quite a bit more mundane. There was more and Spencer opened up to Jack and told him about the family he had on Gallifrey before he ran away from his grief and anger over losing them. He told him The Moment was real and it was still one of the biggest regrets of his life. That he was still searching for a way to save Gallifrey and things didn’t happen like the specials showed. They talked for a long time and Spencer hoped that Jack understood a little better why he didn’t say anything.
“Papa, will I ever see you again?” Jack asked as emotion swam in his eyes.
“Yes Jack, you will see me again. I’ve learned quite a lesson with this life and what it feels like when people you love and trust abandon you. I won’t do that to you Jack, I won’t abandon you.” He handed Jack a phone that had the TARDIS directly linked to it. “You, Henry or the kids can call me anytime. I will come, no matter what when you need me. I learned a lot from your father Jack, about family, about love. The truth of love and I hope it’s made me a better man.”
“I love you Papa.” Jack fell to his knees as he laid his head on Spencer’s knee, not caring that he was a grown man. He lost two parents already, he didn’t want to lose Spencer, no matter who he really was.
“I love you to Jack.” Spencer’s hearts hitched as he stroked Jack’s hair remembering the first time the boy called him Papa. Finally, Jack stood up and wiped his face.
“Will you stay for dinner? The kids would love for you to stay.”
Spencer nodded as he tamped down on his emotions following Jack back downstairs. Together, as a family they all sat around the table and shared a meal. It was almost like old times, but each one missing that one member of their family. They knew it would take time to heal but they could do it together.
Spencer was laying in his bed on the TARDIS looking up at the ceiling, remembering happier times. Remembering the first time he saw Aaron Hotchner as he closed his eyes and fell asleep knowing it would be a very long time before he forgot anything about the man he had loved. He jumped up and ran into the console room and grabbed his jacket he pulled out the sonic screwdriver and took it back to his room. Flicking a switch, he pulled up the message that Aaron had left him.
If I had to guess you are currently in our room on the TARDIS looking up at the ceiling shutting everyone out. Don’t my love. Know that every moment, every adventure, every case that I spent with you was the happiest I have ever been. You helped pick me up after Haley and you never let me go. I know that you’ll eventually move on, have other adventures, other lives and that’s okay. Please Spencer don’t feel guilty for moving on, for living. I knew what I was getting myself into and I don’t regret a moment of our lives together. I just hope you remember at least a part of me, that when you move on and regenerate that I’ll still be important to you.
Jack loves you and I know he’ll be angry when he learns the truth but give him time and he’ll understand. I love you Doctor and I am honored that you loved me, even if it is only a brief point in time for you. Never doubt what I felt for you. I know you’ll be angry and sad when I’m gone, don’t be. Know that I lived a full and rich life because of you. I loved keeping out secret, even when the team thought we were crazy. You put fun back in my life and that Doctor Spencer, is the greatest gift you could have given to me. I love you Spencer, no matter who you are, I love you.
The message ended and Spencer lay back holding the screwdriver in his hands he played the message over and over committing it to memory. He knew that Aaron would always be in his hearts, no matter how much he changed or how many lives he lived he would always love Aaron Michael Hotchner.